A product manager's primary responsibility is to manage the creation and evolution of products. This covers a wide range of tasks, from coming up with the product strategy, to executing it alongside a full team of engineers, designers, copywriters, data scientists, and more - to iterating it and ensuring it stays relevant to customers. However, this might vary from company to company. Some tech giants distribute the roles further across a range of people while others may prefer to assign them all to the same individual. In Microsoft, Product Managers have a great deal of influence over the direction of the products they manage. This role is emerging faster with each passing day and holds huge importance, especially in top tech companies. What complicates the role of a product manager is the amount of decision making and due to that reason, the interview can be rather challenging, covering a wide range of topics.
In addition, product managers at Microsoft are often referred to as ‘Program Managers’.
This interview guide takes you through the stages that you will go through while interviewing as a Product Manager at Microsoft, along with useful tips and questions to help you prepare the best you can.
The process generally takes about four to eight weeks before you receive an offer if successful, but sometimes it can take even longer. The interview consists of the following steps:
- Call with a recruiter
- A phone interview
- An on-site interview
The way your interview unfolds also depends on you. For example, if you are a college student applying for a new grad role, chances are that you might speak to the recruiter at a career fair or through a referral, having several interviews including on campus, on the phone, and on-site.
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- Telephonic interview with an HR Recruiter (around 25-30 mins)
- You reach this stage if the recruiter has shortlisted you after the screening of your resume and cover letter.
What the interviewer will assess
- If you are suitable for the job in the first place.
- To get an idea of your background and if you have a chance of getting the job.
- To understand your past experiences in the domain.
- To be aware of your behavior and if that would fit in the work culture.
- Keep a track of your past work. Keep a discussion about any previous project handy. You might want to use a template to organize the points you want to mention.
- Keep your answers short and to the point. Don’t beat around the bush as that only displays a lack of confidence.
- Have a clear and confident reason for applying to Microsoft and how you can succeed there.
Here are some of the questions that are common to every product manager interview and others specific to Microsoft:
- Tell me about yourself and why do you think you should be hired for this job?
- Why did you choose Microsoft specifically?
- What methods do you use to determine what your customers want?
Be well prepared to talk about your past job profile and work culture. This is for the recruiter to check your communication skills and whether you are decent enough to work with.
The next step is a telephonic interview with a current program/product manager at Microsoft. There are good chances that they might be your future PM peers, seniors, and others of the department. Some points to be highlighted here are:
- The interview will last about 50 to 60 mins.
- You will be asked several behavioral questions.
- You can expect a question about design, strategy, analysis, and other technical questions.
- Will be concluded with an opportunity for you to ask any questions to your interviewer.
What the interviewer will assess
- Your past experiences and their relevance to the job.
- Your knowledge in the field, and your ability to demonstrate the core competencies of a PM.
- Your ability to think and analyze ideas.
- Your work ethic.
- There is a good chance that the interviewer asks about a recent product that you might have used and then dig deeper about your likes and dislikes about the product. They may also ask for suggestions to improve it. In such a case, it would be helpful to already be ready with a few products to talk about beforehand, so that you are not hesitant on the spot.
- Microsoft likes innovative ideas and focuses a lot on inclusion. Suggest products that are well feasible, more accessible and works for all types of people. Try to be innovative and talk about ways of designing or improving products further.
- What’s your most-used Microsoft product and is there anything you would like to suggest for improving it?
- How would you explain this job profile to someone who doesn’t know a lot about it?
- Can you design a user interface for any music app you can think of?
- How would you differentiate between C and Java?
- How do you think you can help in optimizing a production process?
- What measurements will you use to assess Microsoft Outlook's success?
- Build a system for a single person. What happens if 100 people try to use the service locally? What if it's used by a million people all over the world?
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After getting past the telephonic interview, if you are considered by the PM Team, you will be called for an on-site interview. You will get to spend an entire day in Microsoft’s offices with several interviews throughout the day. Some points to be kept in mind are:
- There will be about 4-5 rounds of interviews and each interview will last for about 45-60 mins with already working PMs and other hiring managers.
- The recruiter will remain in touch with you all along and take you through the process thoroughly.
- Interviewers will make recommendation notes, on whether or not to hire you. Each of them will be able to see the notes from previous interviews given by you.
- You will have an opportunity to lunch with one of your interviewers for about one and a half hours where you can come up with casual yet insightful conversations.
- If a majority of the interviewers recommend you, you will be called in for the last interview where you have an opportunity to ask intelligent questions and show off your passion for Microsoft.
What the interviewer will assess
- If you are meant for the job profile and your experience.
- Your knowledge about the firm.
- If you are a good fit and have enough knowledge and skills.
- Your interviewer is trying to test various themes and your grasp on each of them.
- Analytical ability
- Technical aspect
- Creative thinking
- This is the point where all your technical knowledge and research about Microsoft comes to play. Prepare well beforehand by going through annual reports and mission analysis.
- It would be helpful to talk about your opinion on some new and emerging technologies, for instance artificial intelligence and machine learning, AR/VR, blockchain, and the like
- Tell us about your style of management.
- Do you have a way of making people agree with your point of view?
- Can you design a 3-button remote for any electrical device such as a television?
- Describe how you would design a method that removes every other node from a linked list.
- Explain to us the working of the internet.
- You are provided with a team of 20 engineers and 4 data scientists. If you are given a time of 6 months to come up with a new product, what would that be? How far do you think you will be able to work on it in 6 months?
- Examine the benefits and drawbacks of creating a mega app, which includes entertainment, e-commerce, food ordering, hotel booking, cab booking, chat, holiday planning, gaming, med ordering, service booking, and other B2C functions.
- How will you build a car-sharing app for disabled people similar to Uber?
- Develop a product that allows job seekers to easily and efficiently create resumes and find the best matching jobs.
- What steps will you take to increase the revenue of MS PowerPoint?
- How will you design a cellphone for a 2 year old?
- How can you evaluate Messenger Room’s success?
At this stage, the difficult part is now over. Pose some questions and express your concerns about the system's functioning. Try practicing with some experienced PM interviewers so that you get a taste of what a real interview feels like, beforehand.
It is important to note that the interviewers talk in between while taking the interview letting the other person know what you missed and what were your strong points. It also lets the next interviewer know what part to focus on.
If in the next interview you get asked a similar question, it is most probably because it wasn’t well elaborated the last time. This is an attempt to get you to discuss a bit more in detail and understand your point of view in a better way. For example, one interviewer might find you lacking on the creativity or innovation front, so the next one might ask you something related to the same. Make sure you watch out for this.
If you are recommended by a majority of the interviewers, you will be extended with an offer letter within a week.